Cymbeline: Primary School Version

 

Are you sitting comfortably?

 

Then, Iíll begin.

 

Once upon a time, long, long ago, there lived a wise old king of all Britain named Cymbeline, who was son of Theomantius. The king had been brought up far away in Rome. Now, Augustus Caesar (who reportedly could put the sun in a blanket and the moon in his pocket) was so taken by the good Cymbeline that he absolved him of the need to pay tribute. Now it came to pass that Cymbeline's daughter, from a previous marriage, Imogen (meaning imocent one) marries a gentleman Posthumus Leonatus, (son of Sicilius), in secret (like those other star-crossed lovers Othello and Desdemona that I told you about last time) because King Cymbeline in his decline has mistakenly married an evil Witch. This evil woman has been robbed of any name by the good William (whom some call Christopher, Francis or Earl). But she has thwarted him by marrying the old King so everyone calls her by her title - Queen. This recent marriage of the young lovers has greatly annoyed the big, bad, nasty, evil, vile, scheming, interfering, old, witch Queen (with no name) as she wants her big, bad, nasty, evil, vile, scheming, interfering, young warlock son Cloten (from another previous marriage) to marry Imogen. But such is the influence of the evil, etc, etc, scheming, big, bad, old, witch that she has Imogen's true love sent far away to Rome, which is a very long way away indeed and presents a thwarting situation to two young people in true love presenting them with many hazards to life and limb. As, every schoolboy and schoolgirl knows, Rome lies in the land of the leaning tower of Pisa (caused, as the alert pupil is well aware, by a most damning curse by the big, old, nameless Queen, when she wasn't even a Queen - in a fit of pique when some local residents failed to pay tribute to her). So off Posthumus went with a stick and a bag made out of a napkin at the end to Rome, (followed at a discreet distance be a tabby cat named Trebutonka who nobody could call a scene stealer) leaving poor Imogen with big tears in her eyes far away and in the most extreme state of forlorn love. Long stayed she so and long Posthumous warred in Rome. And as time went on in seemed that they might not ever meet again but at long last it came to pass that Iachimo who was also warring in Rome took it upon himself to speak with Posthumous. Long they spoke and at length Posthumous mentioned his beloved new wife Imogen so far away in Ludís Town, near London, though not far from Milford Haven - or Denmark and Poland for that matter. Now the trusting Posthumous, although of a good nature and from a poor family had never seen Othello so did not realise what he would stir up in his colleague when mentioning his beautiful beloved. But Iachimo, who had understudied for Iago at warring school was a twisted man and he so envied Posthumous' love that he wagered that he could prove she would do things with a man other than her husband that respectable Queens to be do not do with men other than their husband. But the trusting Posthumous did not realise all of this and so blinded was he by his love that he accepted the bet. His knowledge of plays only went as far as catching the ending of 'The Taming Of The Shrew', where he and his parents were standing in the Yard, with the rest of the commoners so it seemed like a safe bet so happily pledged his ring. Of course he hadnít seen a Merchant of Venice either.

 

Now the good Imogen did not do those things that such young ladies do not do with men with whom they are not married but the big, bad, understudy for Iago was a scheming tyke and hid away in a big chest in her bedroom one night when not a creature was stirring - not even a mouse. He crept out of the chest in the very dead of night and noted down the decoration of the room, etc, etc and convinced the trusting Posthumous that they did indeed do the, nearly, aforementioned unspeakable things. Of course, had Posthumous been both good and wise he would have doubted whether it was plausible that a man spending a night with a beautiful woman would have even noticed the drapery. Or if he did notice such things he probably wasn't the type of man to spend the hours of dark with women. But Posthumus was noble as well as intellectually challenged so gave up the ring and in his rage ordered his servant to kill Imogen. But strangely did nothing to Iago's understudy otherwise our story would have ended far too soon.

 

But the servant, Pisanio, had been brought up by his parents, also servants, in a big house in Warwickshire where there was a big Mulberry tree in the garden and every week he studied many parchments underneath it that grew out of the bark on long summer evenings (that he hid away during Winter in damns made by knowing beavers). Hard he studied to understand his fellow creatures - as he had been born out of the seeds of a melon - but that is another story. Suffice it to say that hope was not far away, and believing that Imogen was not the sort of lady to do those things of which we may not speak, helped her escape. Imogen, playing along with all this called herself Fidele (as she also believed in her fidelity) and disguised herself as a page boy - as she had a penchant for cross-dressing which was apparently very common at the time - and was another reason why Iago's understudy's quest to do unspeakable things with her was doomed from the start. But moving on ...

 

Now, whilst all this has been happening the King Cymbeline's lost sons Guiderius and Arviragus have been taken in by a lord, Belarius who was now known as Morgan. He was a poor man who lived in a cave in Wales which is a mountainous country. For twenty years he has been banish-ed which is a bit like being banished or sent away. For all these last twenty years the rock and the demesnes (which is a big word for you to look up for homework) have been his world and he has brought up King Cymbeline's two long lost sons, Guiderius (disguised as Polydore - as that is a good solid Welsh name) and Arviragus (disguised as Cadwal) without the King's knowledge - keeping the sons ignorant of their identity awaiting a moment of sufficient dramatic intensity to impart this information. For King Cymbeline who even then was old and not very bright had understudied for King Duncan and had been taken in by two villains who had said false and dreadful things about Belarius - even suggesting that he was in league with the big, bad, vile, evil, invading Romans. Now it was in response to this that Belarius took the King's sons away from him to block the succession for he had robbed him of his lands. So Belarius and the nurse Euriphile have brought the sons up as their own.

 

Whilst all of this has been unfolding the evil, sociopathic, vindictive, generally mixed up and emotionally retarded (more homework) Cloten has been trying to track down Imogen whom he has been rejected by - in words even he can understand. Now he is bent on doing grievous violence on Imogen which would be a baleful thing indeed as the big bad evil witch used to read him Titus Andronicus to lull him to sleep in the nursery (but more of that next week, boys and girls). But here our story takes a terrible twist, for Imogen finding a man's life a tedious one after life as a palace babe where she slept on a bed with twenty mattresses yet could still feel a feather under the bottomost one, and shortly falls ill in an orchard and apparently dies. So the banish'ed lord and the stol'en sons leave her out in the wilds, as one does. After a while she gets better though, for good William has secretly stolen away and poured a cordial in her ear which swift as quicksilver has coursed through the natural gates and alleys of her unpolluted (well not recently, anyway) body and with a sudden vigour it unpossetted and uncurded her thin but wholesome blood. More importantly, it totally resequenced her DNA and made her as good as new - if not better. But gentle reader whilst all this has been going on Guiderius has vanquished Cloten who for reasons too complicated to go into was dressed in Posthumous' clothes. Now Guiderius has gone galumphing off with the head (please refer to the poem Cymbewocky after Carroll). Waking, Imogen was distraught and went into much overacting as the character is oft to do at such moments - at least when they are really married to the director (which is also another story). Shortly she was captured by the Roman invasion force as although Caesar has the moon in his pocket he still wants tribute - as the cost of maintaining a stable matter reduction unit with a quasi-retarding gravitational generator was something horrid - even all that time ago. All of this happened because with the passing of the yearís Caesarís fondness for Cymbeline has diminished and now he only wanted the kingís gold pieces that were kept in a high turret guarded by a large dragon named Timbleweed The Valiant. In the confusion Cymbeline nearly executed Imogen and what's more I hear you gasp how were they going to explain the murder of Cloten?

 

All these confusions, all this woe! How will it all be sorted out? In the last scene, of course! This last scene can seem to take another twenty years as it contains twenty four distinct revelations in 455 lines at least according to the wise oracle Britannica (who incidentally now lives in a cave far across the ocean)! But I shall be brief - honest! But first the god Jupiter is so concerned about the way the forces of evil seem to be winning that verily he has descended in thunder and lightning and told us (or at least the apparitions of Posthumusí parents and brothers) that the fight is not over yet - no way! And advises us that, amongst many other things, "Your low-laid son our godhead will uplift". He then hands over a book (allegedly The Love Lives of the Caesars - at least in the provinces) warns the party not to be so impatient and ascends in splendour to his palace crystalline as he is fond of rhyming couplets. The careful listener will notice that the Mother says her son was Ďriptí from her thus informing us thatPosthumus is in fact a Macduff figure which is of no surprise as we are also near Birnam.

 

Posthumous whilst warring in Rome has stumbled across a magic portal to Milford Haven with the rest (which proves the well-known, yet oft-misquoted saying all roads lead to Milford Haven) and is mistaken for a Roman soldier Ė which is all very well and good really since in Rome he had been frequently mistaken for a Milford Haven soldier. In his youth, Posthumus had often been said to have an away team look about him by his rugby coach Ė Centiphilus and nobody till this moment had the least idea what had been meant by this. Now Posthumus was promptly imprisoned in the deepest dungeon of the largest castle in merry old Wales. But long it could not be for the Roman general, Caius Lucius spoke on Imogen's behalf which was nearly as good as her A-half and she uncovered Iago's understudy's plot. Posthumous, has been on stage all the while looking a bit of a spare part - as useful as Claribel in the Tempest, suddenly perks up, puts on his contact lenses which he hides in a thimble suspended behind his left ear ready for such times notices that this person who sounds just like his beloved wife whom he has sworn undying love for - even outside moments of physical intimacy - so it probably really was true - also looks just like her with her hair tied back and wearing trousers - that's her legs wearing the trousers not her hair - pay attention at the back! He now realises that she would not do unspeakable things with effeminate hair dresser's like Iago's understudy. But he, i.e., Iachimo has already cast doubt on his own manhood by speaking much of the heaviness and guilt within his bosom of belying a lady in the sense of not speaking sooth about her. Verily after being vanquisheth and disarmeth by Posthumous-eth, he had admitted so to the air-eth. As you will remember from Othello, when someone in a Shakespeare play talks just to the air-eth they are problem speaking sooth. Cymbeline, catching up with all this was overjoyed to be reunited with his long lost sons and his short lost daughter. Suffice it to say they all lived happily every after and Imogen and Posthumous did lots of unspeakable things with each other, never noticing the drapery, and after much practice produced many beautiful and true daughters and strong and noble sons of their own. One person of course, did not live happily every after. That was the vile, evil, nasty, etc, etc, big, bad, old witch without a name, even without a title. She ran up to the tower, fetched her broomstick and flew away west of the moon and east of the sun. But on long nights upon a midnight dreary when the wind is still it is oft said by the octogenarians that live near the big castle in Milford Haven, close to Ludís Town, London and sometimes Rome that a fateful rapping, something gently rapping, rapping at a chamber door indicates that the bones of the old witch are creaking as she curses the fair Imogen. Moreover they also say that the vile hail in winter is the witch's tears for her son Cloten. Let's hope that it is just a story boys and girls.

 

T H E†† E N D

 

Copyright © John Moore 2000